European women’s football has been dominated by Lyon, but as investment increases across the continent, many threats have emerged for the French team heading into the Champions League quarter-finals this week.
Lyon have been European champions for the past five seasons, creating a dynasty to match that of Real Madrid in the early years of the Men’s European Cup in the 1950s.
Jean-Michel Aulas, the Lyon president, was rewarded for his investment but they no longer have a monopoly on the best players and a team which has won 14 successive national titles is no longer, in the current state of affairs, the best of France either.
They are one point behind Paris Saint-Germain in the French league and on Wednesday the clubs take their rivalry to Europe as they meet in the first leg of their quarter-final.
PSG, having replaced Lyon as France’s first men’s team in the last decade under Qatari ownership, could be on the verge of doing the same for the women.
Lyon beat PSG in the semi-finals last season on the verge of winning the final against Wolfsburg, and Lyon also triumphed on penalties when the French rivals met in the 2017 final.
But PSG won 1-0 when the teams met in the league in November, ending Lyon’s 73-game unbeaten streak.
The Parisians, with players like Chilean goalkeeper Christiane Endler and prolific striker Marie-Antoinette Katoto, no longer have to fear Lyon.
“Paris has already had good teams and good players. But their current team has been together for several years. They haven’t changed much while we have lost players, ”said Lyon skipper and defensive colossus Wendie Renard recently.
Since winning the Champions League last season, Lyon have lost England right-back Lucy Bronze, the reigning FIFA player of the year, to Manchester City. Former Ballon d’Or winner Ada Hegerberg was hit hard by injuries.
– Man City, Chelsea “had to catch up” –
Now, perhaps the greatest threat comes from across the Channel.
Clubs like German champions Wolfsburg, the two former Champions League winners and Swedish champions Rosengard – once Brazilian club Grande Marta – remain in this season’s competition, and Barcelona and Bayern Munich are also in attendance.
However, it is impossible to ignore the investment that has been made in English clubs.
“You have to realize that teams like Lyon and Wolfsburg have been professional for so much longer. The English teams have had to build, we are investing, but in the past this investment has not been the same as that of Lyon, Wolfsburg or PSG, ”Chelsea manager Emma Hayes said this week.
“We had to catch up. ”
England champions Chelsea face Wolfsburg this week in a draw that sees Danish star Pernille Harder take on his former club.
She left Wolfsburg for Chelsea last summer for a sum considered a world record of over 250,000 pounds ($ 350,000), and in London she joined Australian Sam Kerr.
“I see no reason why clubs wouldn’t want to support women’s football and give them the best possible opportunity to succeed,” Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich said in a rare interview with Forbes.
Manchester City, who face Barcelona, look potentially stronger than ever after adding bronze along with US World Cup winners Sam Mewis, Rose Lavelle and Abby Dahlkemper.
“It took a while for there to be greater parity or opposition in the later stages of the Champions League which is not just a France team versus a German team,” Hayes added.
“This is the first real year, although there has been much closer progress in recent years, where I think six teams can win easily. ”
English clubs are on the move, following the announcement of a three-year broadcast deal for the country’s Women’s Super League worth around £ 7million a year.
The growing investment from owners and broadcasters is expected to put English clubs in a strong position as early as next year, when a 16-team Champions League group stage is introduced.
With the emergence of Manchester United and Real Madrid, it will only get more difficult for Lyon.
© 2021 AFP